Paul Perkins watched conference championship games around the country, but there was one that the UCLA running back simply could not bear to see.
Watching the Pac-12 title game would have been too painful for Perkins, a reminder of the enormous opportunity wasted by the No. 14 Bruins.
“I don’t get over any loss. I lost last night in a video game, I’m still mad about it,” Perkins said. “The bowl is going to be nice, but it can’t make up for the opportunity that we had.”
If UCLA (9-3) had defeated Stanford in its regular season finale, coach Jim Mora’s team would have faced Oregon for the conference title. The Bruins would be preparing for one of the College Football Playoff semifinals or, likely at worst, the Fiesta Bowl right now instead of the Alamo Bowl against No. 11 Kansas State.
“That one needed to hurt,” Mora said. “That one still hurts. That one hasn’t gone away. That one is never going to go away.”
A win over the Wildcats would give UCLA some consolation in the form of consecutive 10-win seasons for only the third time in school history. Perhaps just as important, it would offer the Bruins proof they can finally beat a team that is remarkably similar to Stanford philosophically.
Kansas State actually huddles and operates at a deliberate pace on offense, ranking five spots ahead of Stanford in time of possession. They have turned the ball over only 11 times. Penalties are just as infrequent, and their prowess in the return games gives them a significant edge in field position.
“They play perfect football almost,” receiver Jordan Payton said. “They don’t make any mistakes (and are) extremely disciplined, so it is going to take one of our best games we’ve ever played and we are definitely going to be ready for it.”
But how Kansas State achieves those results on offense is dramatically different than Stanford’s pro-style scheme built on a power running game. Quarterback Jake Waters is an accurate passer and effective runner, and a variety of option concepts maximize those attributes.
The pop pass is especially useful, as Waters can read the defense to see whether to hand off the ball to a running back, keep it, or throw it and attack the seams of the defense if the linebacker or safety bites on the run action.
“That’s what Arizona made a ton of money doing this year,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. “It’s the quadruple option, is what it is. There are four options on virtually every play, so we got to be ready.”
Quarterback Brett Hundley should be ready following his exit late in the loss to Stanford after hitting his throwing hand on a helmet. Hundley playfully showed off all 10 fingers and said he was able to throw the ball during practice Friday, but would need time before the bowl game to get back to full health.